Summers are becoming increasingly difficult for utilities as they are impacted by hotter temperatures, rising inflation costs, evolving state clean energy mandates, and more. At the same time, customers’ expectations of their utilities are additionally increasing as they expect programs, messaging, and experiences designed to their lifestyles and habits. When external forces impact the way your business operates, and how it delivers a “successful customer experience,” it’s crucial to track CSAT scores internally to make the right decisions at the right time for your customers.
CSAT scores are likely to take a hit this summer as utilities brace for hotter temperatures, droughts, and wild weather across the country. And, let’s not forget about inflation causing price increases on everything. Summer is increasingly becoming a challenge not only to the operations of each utility, but to the customers as well.
For utilities, CSAT scores can equate to profits. In a study conducted by Fettig/Whirlpool Fellow at Kelley, they found that for the average utility, a one-unit point increase on the ACSI index, “decreases operating costs by $29 million overall, through lowering customer service, distribution, and selling and general administrative costs” per year.
Customer intelligence data is the key to connecting with your customers in meaningful ways that can impact their experience. When utilities know who their customers are at a household level, they can send the right messages at the right time to promote the right information, when customers will engage with it the most.
But first, to understand how a customer intelligence tool can help improve CSAT scores, let’s look into what factors might cause them to decrease this summer.
The No.1 problem facing utility customers today: Inflation.
It is nothing new to most folks to expect price increases from their utility every summer. We see gas prices increase at the pump. We know that keeping the house or office cool will increase our energy bill. Also, we can anticipate a higher water usage bill as we water our gardens daily. These are just some of the things we (we are all consumers of these utilities) can expect.
However, this summer is different. Inflation is driving the cost of everything we (including utilities) purchase. Consequently, those extra costs must be dispersed to the customer. Some energy customers in Pennsylvania will see increases of up to 45% on their bills. At the same time, water utilities warn customers they can expect a 25% increase on theirs – to name just a couple. These rate increases will make paying, for many customers, difficult at best.
While inflation is out of your control, it does directly impact your CSAT score. According to J.D. Power 2022’s U.S Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, as the average bill’s monthly price increased compared to previous years, CSAT scores declined. Notably, only 35% of customers “recall hearing about a rate increase” from their water utility.
The lesson? Make sure your customer receives your messages, especially when price sensitivity directly impacts their experience.
BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform can help utilities guide their customers through challenging events, like price increases due to inflation. Because our platform integrates external data with internal, utilities can educate customers about supply and distribution in their marketplace. One partner’s CX team, for instance, uses this information to create campaigns and educate those customers about available options and programs. They have since increased CAP engagement and overall CSAT scores.
Build positive engagement with customers who are behind on payments.
According to the National Energy Assitance Directors Association, more than 20.1 million households have past-due bills. In New York and New Jersey alone, more than two million customers are in debt to utilities that provide electricity, heat, water, and broadband. For a single utility, this can mean tens to hundreds of thousands of delinquent accounts. Not only does this strain internal operations, but it decreases CSAT scores as well.
This summer’s environmental, economic, and social circumstances are, again, unique from previous years. Electric utilities, for instance, report seeing “a growing number of consumers struggling to pay their bills that are higher on the income ladder” and those customers “may never have received help before.”
Utilities have an opportunity to recoup these lost costs. In one instance, a natural gas utility used BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform to generate a 47% follow-through rate of full payments from overdue accounts. For many of those customers, all it took was a single message through the right channel to pay their balance in full. Read more about this utility’s successful campaign experience by downloading the full case study here.
Many of this new segment of customers experiencing debt owed to their utility are unaware of the options or programs available to them. Customer intelligence platforms can help your team build a CX strategy to reach this new segment through the channel they will be most receptive to. When your utility can improve your customer’s experience and help them out of mounting debt, CSAT scores will follow.
Grid reliability in an unreliable climate.
Utility grids don’t like extreme weather. Unfortunately, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center shows above-normal temperatures throughout the Western U.S. during the summer months. California utilities are warning customers of power shortages during peak hours. Texas utilities warn of rotating blackouts. Similarly, messages like this posted by FERC warn that “extreme operating conditions such as major heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and other severe weather events may stress operations.”
Power outages that last more than 5 minutes can cost electric customers more than $26 billion dollars each year. This total includes things like disruption costs of business operations, food spoilage, and the costs of the utility crews fixing the issue. When customer expectations are not met, like when a disruption occurs, your CSAT scores will be next to take the hit.
Grid reliability directly relates to CSAT scores. According to S&C Electric Company’s studies on the impacts of grid outages, the more reliable a grid is, the more the utility will see:
- Reductions to operations & maintenance costs. Meaning they “spend less time and money fixing issues, freeing up labor hours put toward improving your system.”
- Increased Customer Satisfaction. As every customer is “plugged in” to the grid system, “even the smallest outage can have a big impact – and cause big complaints.”
- Improved System Performance. As customers demand energy resiliency and reliability sources, like solar and wind, it’s “important to stay up to date with modern technologies that enable the grid to operate efficiently.”
BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform can utilize data to help utilities map outages and reach out directly to customers. When disruptions happen, notify your customers quickly with the right messaging. This feature can help keep CSAT scores high, even when they have the potential to lower.
Create Targeted Customer Experiences and Increase CSAT Scores
By utilizing customer data to measure CSAT scores automatically, companies can capture CSAT at the household or segment-level, daily. Automating scores makes it easier to proactively intervene – when the customer needs it most. BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform further allows utilities to correlate scores with specific customer journeys and programs, and personalize each at scale.
Automatically assign a daily CSAT score to each customer based on:
Review scores for individual customers, customer segments, and overall customer base
Review how scores change over time for specific customers, customer segments, and overall customer base
See a breakdown of reasons for CSAT scores
Target customers of highest risk for intervention
Quantify correlation of specific customer programs and touch points with high/low CSAT scores
Don’t let unpredictable events impact your relationship with your customers. BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform will help you make the most of your programs and offerings while prioritizing your resources and investments for maximum impact – while helping you stay on top of your customers’ changing circumstances and needs.
BlastPoint’s platform democratizes customer intelligence, so that every organization, no matter the size of their staff or the state of their data, can improve their customer experience campaigns almost immediately. With our predictive insights at their fingertips, teams know exactly where customers are on their journey and engage effectively.
Visit our case studies page to see more results we’ve helped companies achieve, and get in touch with our team to talk about how customer intelligence can help your team boost engagement and improve customer experience.